In light of the recent stupid controversy surrounding Miss America 2014’s Nina Davuluri, I decided to ponder race relations in the context of beauty pageants and American society.
30 years ago today, a beaming aspiring actress and model by the name of Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America. She made history as the first African American to ever possess the crown. While Twitter wasn’t invented, boy THAT would’ve been exciting if it was, the award didn’t come without it’s own bit of controversy. She received death threats. The amount of hate mail? Unbelievable. That wasn’t all.
Like many seeking to create a name for themselves in the profession, Williams turned to a less flattering avenue. Nude photos. Naturally, the news came back to bite her in the ass. Ten months into Vanessa Williams’ reign, she received a phone call alerting her that the photos had surfaced. Williams never gave permission for the release of the photos, and to her knowledge they were destroyed.
Despite the photos being taken prior to her pageant days, officials weren’t having the scandal. Penthouse ran the images in September of 1984, and Williams resigned from the position of reigning Miss America shortly after. While she is still recognized as Miss America 1984 and was graciously allowed to keep her crown, the actions of the officials, and those of hateful Americans, speak volumes about race relations in this country.
So here we are. 30 years later and yet another minority has been granted the title for the first time. It’s a moment that I feel should be celebrated but instead more people are talking about the controversy surrounding the Davuluri’s ethnicity.
People are still not quite comfortable with a minority representing the “land of the free.” In fact they downright hate it. Did nude photos of Nina Davuluri surface? No. Has she received death threats yet? I’m sure. But that’s what makes this so terrible. She is without any type of scandal and folks are still hating.
I’m not justifying nude photos as an excuse for a Miss America Pageant contestant to give up her crown. But that is SLIGHTLY understandable as she is a representative of not only the organization, but for millions of young girls across the globe. Personally, I believe that America just wasn’t ready for a black Miss America, and given the reactions to the news from a few days ago, they’re not ready for a winner of Indian-American decent either. And that is really really sad.
In light of the 30th anniversary of Vanessa Williams becoming the first African American Miss America, how far have we really come when it comes to racial tolerance?
Sound off below!